Bad News For Big 12: Gundy, Pickens Team Up

"It (Oklahoma State football program) is very healthy! We have a very exciting and young football team. We have great leadership. These assistant coaches are all better than I was as an assistant coach. I'm lucky to be here." Those were the words of Cowboys head football coach Mike Gundy as OSU booster T. Boone Pickens was motoring back to Stillwater Municipal Airport on Friday afternoon.

Mastering the art of politics and persuasion is also a trait of the Cowboys head coach and of it's biggest benefactor. Neither Gundy nor Pickens got to where they are today without those skills.

Pickens has used his to primarily swoon investors and disarm business and political adversaries, while Gundy has used his to primarily recruit talented football players and coaches to join his program. Before Pickens' invested heavily in OSU, Gundy remembers his skills had to be that much better as there wasn't as much to sell prospects on Stillwater and the Cowboys.

These days of beer and oranges (Oklahoma State is not a wine and roses school) around the Cowboys program aren't that far removed from 2011 when on the field Oklahoma State was winning the Big 12, beating OU 44-10, and then winning the BCS Fiesta Bowl in overtime over quarterback Andrew Luck and Stanford.

However, off the field, Gundy in response to that again, recently debated 10-year contract given to basketball coach Travis Ford, had hired agent and financial squeezer Jimmy Sexton to play hard ball better than MSNBC's Chris Matthews ever thought about it. The rough negotiations on what turned out to be a lucrative eight-year contract for Gundy caused angst for Pickens.

Then the next year, following the last regular season game at Baylor, Gundy in an effort to gain more control over the non-conference scheduling for the football program made flirtations with Tennessee and Arkansas about their open coaching jobs.

Gundy would later admit his mistake as it hurt his relationship with the very people he best specialized in relating to, the Cowboy fans. It put his relationship with Pickens, already mostly non-existent, into a deep freeze.

Like I have said, a win over rival Oklahoma cures more ills than I thought it still did. Seeing the Sooners go down is like a magic elixir.

"I like to win, you guys know that," Pickens said when he held court with the media Friday afternoon.

Pickens and Gundy spent more time on Friday, in addition to their weekly scheduled conversations in discussing the Oklahoma State team.

But in this instance Pickens was able to see and not just hear descriptions of how the young offensive line has improved, on how big and better Mason Rudolph is at quarterback, Rennie Childs has slimmed down and sped up some, and on defense the Cowboys are maybe the most experienced and speedy as they have been during the Mike Gundy era. The players and the team are really loaded and I don't think that is necessarily an "orange glasses" evaluation.

Gundy and Pickens are happy about the program, happy with each other, and communicating regularly.

Last I checked regular communication with your top booster and benefactor does not guarantee success. Just because Phil Knight feels so good he has the Nike "Project Runway" team design another set of uniforms Oregon doesn't win the championship. However, new unis have never seemed to deflate the Ducks.

The Cowboys have Pickens in a confident state, Gundy has him in an appreciated state, and Pickens has Gundy in a lucky state. That's what he said, lucky to be here.

Even the schedule is great for this season, so while Pickens won't make any tackles or call any plays, his being closer to the entire operation and feeling good about it could make Stillwater a tough place for Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and OU to visit coming season.

It's good for the Cowboys when Gundy and Pickens are enjoying their friendship, and it is bad for anybody that is on the other side and having to come to Stillwater for a fall Saturday visit.


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